Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Assignment Five – an example

Writing up my thoughts on the Taylor Wessing exhibition & then reading comments from Clive & Dave made me think that it was time to ‘mock-up’ something from the one portrait session that I have managed to organise, more than a month ago now.

I came away a bit frustrated with myself because I didn’t manage to get things just right, from the technical point of view.  I’m not going to dwell on the specifics too much here, however, I was shooting in a brightly lit motor garage but also felt I needed to use some flash and a wide aperture to avoid a slow shutter (and the noise that results if I start cranking up the ISO setting on the D80).  I did have an assistant, as Clive suggests, and he was holding a large white reflector behind me to bounce the flash rather than have it direct onto the subject. The result isn’t a disaster by any means, but there is some very nasty shadow across the subject’s midriff (from light that did go direct) and the foreground is less in focus than I had intended.  It’s usable but not up to the standard I would have liked.

However, I have added some text, which is what I have in mind for the final submission, and produced this version.  I’ll need to give careful thought to font size & type in the final versions, and also think carefully about just how much text to include.  I feel that it’s important to support the image with enough narrative to encourage the viewer to read it ‘correctly’ but I don’t want the text to take over.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve produced this version now.  I want to test the water, see what it looks/feels like, before doing the rest of the sessions.  My initial reaction is that this amount of text could be a little too much, but I now have something to work with, at least.

(Incidentally, I’ve since experimented with firing the flash through a diffusing layer rather than bouncing it – more ‘soft box’ than ‘umbrella’ – and I think I can get better results that way, if I need to use flash again.  Too late for this session though, unfortunately.)


  1. It's all about him and his models, unfortunately even at this size the models are very out of focus, that's a barrier preventing us from appreciating an important element of the image.

    Also they're lit very brightly which pulls the eye exaggerating the fact that they're out of focus even more and emphasises the fact that the light is obviously rapidly gradating from the front to back the back of the set.

    This is a symptom of having the light too close. The intensity falls off exponentially and quite rapidly, having a light too close causes a 'hot' area in the frame which most times you don't want. You want a general area of more evenly balanced light so that the light doesn't distract from the content.

    In this case a solution without moving the light would have been to gobo off some light from the models on the right hand side.

    An assistant is also useful on a portrait shoot to stand in for the subject while you're refining the set up so that you can get it exactly how you want it without feeling pressure from your subject to shoot when you're not completely satisfied.

    On the text issue I think there's perhaps a third too much.

    1. Thanks for your input, Clive. Interesting, your comment about the light being too close, I also think I made the wrong choice of lens - a new 35mm prime (50mm equiv on my camera). I'm more used to the 50mm (75mm equiv), which I think helps me to 'step back'. This lens took me in closer and I've taken the light with me.

  2. I think the 75mmm is a good choice for general portraiture. It gives a bit of breathing space between you and your subject, leaves more room for your lighting and produces a more flattering perspective.